TV is in a weird place. While 2020 got us through the first 9+ months of the COVID-19 era with the plethora of TV shows that had been filmed prior to the pandemic (many of which were excellent brand new series), it's clear that as 2021 gets into gear that well is beginning to dry up. Don't get us wrong—there will be TV. Around midway through last year, shows started resuming production, and there shouldn't really be any lengthy delay as far as releases go.
But what does seem a bit different in 2021 is the certainty around those releases. Television had already been trending closer and closer to the music precedent of exceedingly little lead time before a series gets a release date. Netflix usually releases a first trailer only about a month before a show actually comes out; Disney+ and HBO thankfully give a little more notice.
Still, a lot is up in the air. There are a number of shows that we think should and could be released in 2021 that sound extremely exciting—comedies from legends, star-studded thrillers/horror/mysteries, and some seriously exciting blockbuster nerd stuff from our Marvel/Star Wars overlords at Disney. But outside of a select few right now, we don't have a ton of information about when they'll actually come out.
We may not know when these shows are coming out, but we can feel pretty good about the fact that TV continues to be in good hands. Even aside from these 26 shows we've highlighted at the start of the year, there's always going to be shows that pop up and get us all to buy in. Who could've seen Ted Lasso coming last year? Or The Queen's Gambit? Hell, who saw The Tiger King becoming as unbelievably massive as it was for a few weeks? Yes, that kind of took some once-in-a-lifetime circumstances for that to happen, but, look, it's 2021. We don't know what the hell is going to happen.
But we do know we're going to have a lot more quality time with our televisions.
Mike Flanagan has a nice winning streak going with Netflix. The writer-director has been behind both series under The Haunting banner, including The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. In 2021, he's bringing some of his favorite players back—including Kate Siegel and Rahul Kohli—for a new horror series, titled Midnight Mass. The show will, of course, stick with the horror theme, this time following a community that finds horrifying events occurring after a mysterious priest arrives in town.
Just a guess, but we think we could probably pencil this one in for a November or December release based on the title alone, right?
There's not much known yet about Only Murders in This Building, but Steve Martin co-created the series to star in it with his longtime friend and collaborator Martin Short and also Selena Gomez. Sold!
HBO's update of Ingmar Bergman's 1973 film (or series, depending on who you talk to) of the same name will be headlined by wonderful duo: Jessica Chastain and a suddenly-very-busy Oscar Isaac. The show, which will show various points of a deteriorating relationship over the course of a decade, is currently in production and should be released at some point in 2021.
Shonda Rhimes' first foray at Netflix, Bridgerton, is already a massive hit. But her next series, Inventing Anna, has the potential to be even bigger. The show will find Julia Garner (Ozark) as notorious New York City scammer Anna Delvey, who scammed her was financially and socially into some of the world's highest class institutions. Based on Jessica Pressler's story from The Cut.
Think of Nine Perfect Strangers in the same way you'd think of a lot of similar mystery series of the last few years: Big Little Lies, The Undoing, Little Fires Everywhere, etc. This one, which is also being written by Lies and Undoing's David E. Kelley (a busy man the last few years) is also based on another novel by Lies book author Liane Moriarty. The set-up is simple: nine people are at a health resort—and then things go wrong, and the mystery abounds. The very stacked cast includes Nicole Kidman (of course), along with Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Shannon, Tiffany Boone, Regina Hall, and Luke Evans (among others).
Michael Keaton is the star and executive producer of Hulu's Dopesick, which focuses on the opioid epidemic that the United States has been struggling with for years. Keaton plays a compassionate, old-school doctor who nonetheless finds himself tied up with the dirty secrets and truths of Big Pharma. The show is based on a non-fiction book by Beth Macy and will be run by Danny Strong, who has been behind HBO's based-on-real-life movie Recount and is the creator of FOX's Empire.
Sticking with the based-on-a-true-story theme, The Dropout will find Saturday Night Live standout Kate McKinnon playing Theranos scammer Elizabeth Holmes in this miniseries on Hulu. This one might be a stretch for 2021 seeing as it hasn't been cast or entered production yet, but it sounds promising—so one to keep on your radar.
Broad City star Abbi Jacobson is the star and co-creator of Amazon Prime Video's upcoming TV adaptation of Penny Marshall's classic baseball film A League of Their Own, which is a great start in and of itself. D'Arcy Carden, who also appeared on Broad City and Barry in addition to a starring role on The Good Place is one of many talented co-stars for Jacobson in the series.
We don't know too much about this one just yet, but given how good Hulu's High Fidelity series was last year—uncancel it you cowards!—we've got a renewed sense of optimism around streaming networks doing TV spins on beloved movies.
Alita: Battle Angel star Rosa Salazar is leading Brand New Cherry Flavor, a horror/revenge thriller set in the world of the 1990 movie industry. Based on the novel of the same name, this show comes from a pair of co-creators who are behind SyFy's underrated horror series Channel Zero and also involved with the sharp writing of Showtime's Billions. An impressive cast also includes Catherine Keener and The Good Place's Manny Jacinto.
Another one based on a novel of the same name, the main draw of Pieces of Her is a big one: Ms. Toni Collette. After impressing over the last few years with wildly different turns in Hereditary, Knives Out, and Netflix's Unbelievable, she returns to the streaming giant to play a mother with a violent past that no one in her orbit knows about—until a trip to the mall turns violent and exposes everything.
So, uh, a series about a pandemic that wipes out most of society might not be on the top of your must-watch list, but stick with us on this HBO Max original. It's (yes, another) based on Emily St. John Mandel's widely-acclaimed novel of the same name, and will be showrun by Maniac's Patrick Somerville and directed by one of the very best TV directors in the game in Hiro Murai (who has helmed some of the best episodes of recent years with his episodes of Atlanta and Barry; he frequently collaborates with Donald Glover, also directing his "This Is America" video and short film Guava Island).
Additionally, the cast will be led by Mackenzie Davis, who added "Future Holiday Classic Movie" (in Hulu's Happiest Season) to her impressive Sci-Fi resume that also included Blade Runner 2049, The Martian, and one of the best episodes of Black Mirror in "San Junipero." We can't wait to see how this one turns out.
How about a little superhero action that's not from Marvel or DC? Even that's getting to be a little bit of a crowded field between The Boys and The Umbrella Academy, but Netflix is looking to add another big series here with Jupiter's Legacy, based on a comic by Mark Millar (who is behind the Kick-Ass comics). Josh Duhamel and Leslie Bibb will play superheroes who were some of the "original guard" of their kind back in the '30s, and now have children of their own who vy to live up to that legacy.
This animated MCU series has been on our radar for quite a while, and it's finally scheduled to be released this year. The show, featuring the actual voices of your favorite heroes and villains, imagines what could be if major Marvel moments went a little bit differently. Some scenarios that have been teased? A zombie Captain America, for one. All of this will be bound together and observed by a character called "The Watcher," voiced by Westworld star Jeffrey Wright.
Jeremy Renner will return to the role of Clint Barton/Hawkeye in this Disney+ series which will find him training a young woman named Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld!) looking to eventually take over the Hawkeye mantle. Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, The Departed) will play Kate's mother in this action series that's currently filming in New York City.
We've been hearing about Amazon Prime Video's massively-budgeted Lord of the Rings series for a few years now, and it might be nearing a mid or late 2021 release date. We don't know much, but we do know that it won't be retelling the same story of Peter Jackson's early-2000s trilogy; instead, it will tell a different epic stories from before the events of Lord of the Rings.
So, we don't know much about this upcoming Alien series, other than the fact that it is going to exist, and it's going to be on FX (and FX on Hulu). But one thing we can feel really good about? The show is going to be run by Noah Hawley. And as Hawley has proved with the Fargo show, he is an absolute master of taking the idea of a beloved, distinct movie from a legendary director, and turning it into something similar thematically yet still 100% it's own thing. Let's hope he can do with Ridley Scott what he's already done with The Coen Brothers.
We're going to have to wait a little longer than usual for The Mandalorian Season 3, because, well, as anyone who saw that show's Season 2 finale knows, Boba Fett is finally getting his moment with The Book of Boba Fett. Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and the Mandalorian team are going to work on this Boba Fett spin-off series first, which will star Temuera Morrison as the legendary bounty hunter, and Ming-Na Wen as his new partner in crime, Fennec Shand. We'd imagine the show will give us insight into everything that happened before Fett's Mandalorian appearance, and probably a good bit of stuff after. Our blood is still pumping from that post-credits scene during the Mandalorian finale, so we'll be waiting with baited breath for this one.